McMahon Stadium – Calgary Stampeders
Stamp Your Feet in Calgary
The CFL’s Calgary Stampeders were founded in 1945, although football has been played in Calgary since 1909. The Stampeders have won the Grey Cup seven times since their inception, and are one of two CFL teams in Alberta, sharing the province with their neighbors to the north, the Edmonton Eskimos.
The Stampeders originally played at Mewata Park Stadium, but moved to McMahon Stadium in 1960, thanks in part to a large donation from Frank and George McMahon, which helped fund the venue’s construction. McMahon Stadium is located near the University of Alberta’s campus, and took only 100 days to build; the venue is named after the two brothers.
McMahon Stadium has hosted the Grey Cup four times, and is also the home venue for the University of Calgary Dinos football team. In addition, the venue is occasionally used to host concerts, and was also the site of the opening and closing ceremonies during the 1988 Winter Olympics – the Olympic rings can still be seen on the berm in the northeast corner.
Food & Beverage 4
McMahon Stadium has a wide variety of food and beverage options, including a couple of food truck-type options set up in the northeast corner. The variety is largely what you would expect from a sports stadium, with typical fare such as burgers, hot dogs, smoked sausage, pizza (from Pizza 73), popcorn, pretzels, and cotton candy to name a few, but the venue does offer a few unique items, such as a Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich, from the same food truck that is well-known at Calgary Flames games.
Drink options are not quite as numerous as the food options, but you can find canned or fountain sodas, as well as bottled water, hot cocoa, coffee, and beer. The beer selection is not very wide, and consists mostly of Molson Canadian – which is not surprising, given the giant inflatable Molson beer can that is proudly on display in the northwest corner.
I highly recommend the Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich, which has great flavor and a decent portion size for its $10 purchase price.
McMahon Stadium has a great atmosphere, with lots of crowd noise and a variety of fun elements built in, including fireworks, multiple mascots giving away loads of mini footballs throughout the game, and most importantly, a live horse and rider careening around the field. That horse’s name is Quick Six (aka the Touchdown Horse), and his frequent appearances will be the best part of your day by far – each time the Stampeders score a TD, Quick Six will bolt around the outside of the field along the east and north stands, and then back again after the extra point (or 2-point conversion). See the video below to hear the crowd roar as Quick Six makes his run:
Besides the Touchdown Horse, another thing to be on the lookout for during the game is the World’s Fastest Cow. A fan contest sponsored by Cowboys Casino, during each game a person dressed in a bright yellow cow costume will take on a local Calgary celebrity; the celeb will generally be given a 15-yard head start, but even that will not be enough to save them from the fleet-footed bovine! A little silly, to be sure, but a lot of fun to watch – be sure to cheer on the cow during your next trip to McMahon Stadium.
Being near campus, there is not much in the immediate vicinity of McMahon Stadium besides parking lots and campus buildings. However, there is a restaurant called Nick’s Steak House & Pizza right across the street from the stadium, which would be a convenient place to grab something to eat or drink before or after the game. Alternatively, since there isn’t much traffic in town during much of the CFL season (due to many of the students being on summer break), you should have no trouble finding other restaurants not far from the stadium; a good number are to be found along 16th Ave NW.
If you are looking for things to do in Calgary during your visit, I would recommend the Military Museum, located in Lincoln Park. Only about a 5-10 minute drive from McMahon Stadium, the “museum” is actually several museums in one, with separate exhibit halls commemorating the exploits of the Canadian Army, Air Force, and Navy. The exhibit even includes a slew of real tanks and planes on site, so this should be a great way to entertain the kids as well.
Fans at McMahon Stadium are really loud, and most of them show up in Stampeders gear; there are actually pretty long lines at the fan shops during most of the game, so you can be sure fans are not shy about displaying their Stamps pride.
Unfortunately, however, the attendance leaves a little to be desired – while the official attendance last season was listed at 27K per game (about three-quarters capacity), the actual attendance is probably less than half full on average, and there were no sellouts last season, either. This is especially distressing given the fact that the Stampeders actually made it to the Grey Cup last year.
Getting in and out of McMahon Stadium is very, very easy. There is inexpensive parking only a few blocks away, at a local church or at a University parking lot, for $7-$10. Given the light traffic in the area during most of the season, and the smallish crowd size, you can make it in time for kickoff even if you are running late, and getting out after the game should only take a few minutes. You will find long lines at the concessions, however, up to about halfway through the third quarter.
McMahon Stadium has grandstands on the east and west sides, with no real seating on the south end, and only limited seating on the north side (which is mostly disabled access). Therefore, depending on which side you park on, you may have to walk all the way around the stadium to get to your seat – there is a pathway on the north side that connects the two grandstands, but you can’t get across on the south side, as that is where the Jumbotron is located. Note that the ticket office is near the southeast corner.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets to Calgary Stampeders games start at around $60 including taxes and fees, sold via Ticketmaster or for purchase at the box office – you don’t necessarily have to buy in advance, since the game likely will not be sold out. Given the cheap parking and reasonable concessions here, this price for tickets is about typical for a professional sports venue, and you will be guaranteed a solid experience from a team that has been playing really well of late.
By far the most fun elements of a Stampeders game are the Touchdown Horse and the World’s Fastest Cow. However, I would also mention that the seats are incredibly comfortable – most of the seats in each grandstand are chairbacks, and they are actually very wide; I am a fairly big guy, and I was able to sit down without my belly touching either armrest, which is pretty amazing in this day and age of cost-cutting.
McMahon Stadium is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. This may not be the most modern stadium in the CFL, but the fun activities the staff has on hand will make your day memorable nonetheless. If you are looking for a fun football game, you can’t go wrong by stopping in Calgary.
Food and Drink Recommendations
Nick’s Steakhouse & Pizza
2430 Crowchild Trail Northwest
Calgary, AB T2M 4N5
Heritage Park Historical Village
1900 Heritage Dr SW
Calgary, Alberta T2V 2X3
Best Western Plus Village Park Inn
1804 Crowchild Trail NW
Calgary, AB T2M 3Y7
Latest Crowd Reviews
I think the neighbourhood around McMahon is better than it appears at first blush. there are at least a dozen restaurants and bars within easy walking distance of the stadium and many more within just a kilometre or two. Overall, I enjoy seeing games at McMahon. Good energy, good sightlines. If they could find a way to make the concourse wider and easier to get around in, this would be a very good facility!